The "Radical Read-Along" has been one of the best opportunities spiritually for me in a long time. I hope you'll be encouraged by my regular "response" posts to get the book (Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by David Platt) and read it. And you should definitely check out the other bloggers' responses as well.
"Beginning at the End of Ourselves: The Importance of Relying on God's Power"
Do you trust in the power of God? Really trust?? Like enough trust that you'd bank everything on it, even your very life? There are actually people who do that today. Men and women who have given their entire selves over to complete dedication to the Lord Almighty and KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that He is capable of ANYthing within His will.
The same God who promised Abraham he would be the father of a mighty nation and at the age of 99 (his wife, 89!!) finally gave him a son, is our God today. The same God who caused the walls of Jericho to fall while the Israelites merely stood there shouting and blowing their trumpets, is our God today. This same God can still do amazing things...and does! And yet most of the time we do not believe this. Not deep down anyway.
I mean, if you were a highly-trained fighter who, one day, was threatened by a scary witch doctor ready to fight you, would you believe in God's power so much that you would sit in a chair, rather than confidently fight (knowing you'd likely win), proclaiming that God does your fighting for you now? Would you just sit there knowing the witch doctor could do anything he wanted to you while you sat and waited for the Lord to do something? Could you just wait there? Unflinching? (BTW, this is not just some random example here, but a true account of something that happened to an Indonesian believer. Platt shares that the witch doctor suddenly began choking and gasping for air, only to fall over dead...all while the believer sat in his chair.) God does not NEED us or our "awesome" abilities. After all, any abilities we may have are only ours because He gave them to us!
In America, it is shoved down our throats every where we turn that "there is no limit to what we can accomplish," that we should "believe in ourselves," and that we are "innately capable." And while that all sounds hunky-dory, it just isn't biblical. Jesus says, "Apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) The entire gospel message beginning with our moral depravity from birth to Christ's triumph over death when He arose from the grave three days after being crucified on the Cross for OUR sins, is about "our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him."
And besides, let's face it. The only reason we'd want to, if we're being honest with ourselves, is so that we'd get some recognition, some respect, some adoration, some attention. We want something for ourselves. The goal of the American Dream: "to make much of ourselves." But here's a giant "Guess what?!" thought I have to keep reminding myself. Ummm...WE don't deserve any recognition. HE does. In fact, HE deserves it all. And that is truly the ultimate goal of the gospel: "to make much of God."
Platt warns us against the danger of manufacturing our churches. So many of our churches, it seems, are all about making church more palatable. They seek to draw as many people in as possible and then provide them with quality entertainment, practical "how-to" type messages, a magnificent facility, and countless "programs" run by professionals (or, at least, people put through some sort of training).
"That way, for example, parents can simply drop off their kids at the door, and the professionals can handle ministry for them. We don't want people trying this at home." (emphasis added)
Churches often strive to find the best speakers, singers, musicians, education professionals, etc., give them all the title of "Minister of ...," have them put together "teams," and then "do church." Then we can all stand in awe of their accomplishments as they work together to "grow their church" and "impress people" with their well-orchestrated service. Of course, I have no doubt that those in these churches do what they do because they love the Lord, but we have to be careful that our churches are established THROUGH His power, ACCORDING to His plans, and FOR His glory. Considering what we've (all) been brought up to believe about ourselves, this might be easier said than done.
"We have convinced ourselves that if we can position our resources and organize our strategies, then in church as in every other sphere of life, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to."
What's missing here, is our desperate need for God and His power and His plan. Desperate need. How many of us truly feel desperate for Him? The truth is, most of us think we've got it covered. In church. And in life. The truth is, not only do we think we've got it covered, but we think we're just about amazing enough to knock it out of the park with no one's help, least of all a God we cannot see. Instead, we believe (even those of us with "low self-esteem") that we are pretty self-sufficient and don't need to trust ANYone, and thank goodness, because then we might have to wait for something and besides, we're not so sure we even can trust anyone. Not even God!
I mean, do we believe in our heart of hearts that God CAN and WILL do His sovereign will and bring about His kingdom? And that He'll do all this in His own power? He truly doesn't need us, as I've said before. But he graciously USES us, provides for us, guides us, and comforts us, all because He has put His Spirit within us, as believers, and allows us to do amazing things BY. HIS. POWER.
This chapter was convicting to me for many of the same reasons as last week. I was thinking of how often I think, "I'm good at this or that. I should volunteer to do such and such." How often I do that, and then find myself, in my own strength, trying to accomplish the task...and not doing so well. Or even failing miserably. God is gracious to allow my failure so that I can see my need for Him. So that I won't get glory for my efforts. Whatever I may do well is because of Him anyway, so I should be finding ways to "make much of Him!" That should be my life's goal.
I will not boast in anything.
No gift, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.
(lyrics from "How Deep the Father's Love For Us" by Stuart Townsend)
*All quotes, unless noted otherwise, are from David Platt's book.